Becoming an Artist with Gladys Holliday

Gladys Holliday is a collage artist.

When the COVID pandemic caused her to be furloughed, Gladys took the opportunity to explore her creativity. She threw herself into making without expectation of what would come out the other side.

I’ll let her tell her story, but ultimately she found something that feels more like what she was made to do than anything else she’s experienced.


Listen in here:

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In this episode you’ll learn:

  • What Gladys does
  • How she got into art
  • How being too “squiggly” affects her career path
  • Her advice for starting a small business
  • How to start being more creative
  • The most challenging parts of her journey and how she overcame them
  • How fear plays a part in her process
  • The impact she hopes her art will have
  • Why she feels that art is what she is made for
  • Her creative process
  • How does her experience in studying textiles connect to her art

Resources Mentioned:

Gladys website

Gladys on Instagram

What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles

The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins

Software Generated Transcription:

Dan

Gladys, thank you so much for joining me. Welcome to the Meaning Movement podcast. I’m so happy to have you.

Gladys

I’m very happy to be here, too.

Dan

The question I always like to begin with is how do you begin to talk about the work that you do in the world?

Gladys

Well, the probably the most straightforward thing to say is I create art. But I’d like to say that I do it in a way that perhaps hasn’t been explored before or in the way that I do it. I also like to think that I kind of bring joy through my art. It’s very colorful. It’s very vibrant. And for people to see, I would hope to bring a little bit of happiness to that day.

Dan

I love it. I love it. I know you’ve been through some transition in the last year or so. And so I guess maybe just to rewind. Have you always thought of yourself as an artist? Has it always been a big part of your life?

Gladys

I’ve always been someone that is creative throughout my kind of, I guess you could say, traditional career path. People have always commented on it before with her creative solutions, creative ideas. And I actually studied fashion textiles at university. So I kind of started off with creative and then I left it behind for a little while because I didn’t have the best time to university and then kind of went on this very meandering journey. Yeah, but it’s something that’s always been kind of commented on.

So, yeah, I don’t know if I’ve always thought of myself as an artist, but I’ve always see myself as a creative person and wanted an outlet, but for a long time, just wasn’t really sure how to express the creativity in the best way, I suppose you could say.

Dan

Mm hmm. And then what pushed you over the edge to take that leap?

Gladys

Well, I would say it kind of had to begin towards the end of twenty nineteen, like I was trying my best at work and surrounded by a great team and the company that I worked for was there for a long time and that give me a lot of room to grow and try different things. But I just felt very disconnected from what I was doing. And yeah, I just, I just couldn’t really figure out a way to get myself out of the situation.

So I was in and then I, you know, the big fan of audio books and podcasts, listen to Mel Robbins, the five second rule. And it really kind of opened my eyes because I think whilst there have been some difficult circumstances, I think a lot of the time I just stood in my own way and made excuses for, you know, I can’t chase my dream of living in a creative way and that sort of thing.

And then obviously, the first thing I’m going to do is I’m going to get a better paid job and I’ll spend my evenings and weekends just experimenting and getting creative again. And it didn’t really work out as planned, sort of kind of like with Coronavirus kind of taking over our lives, I suppose you could say. And I was followed for my job. So the people that aren’t based in the UK, we went on a big lockdown and a lot of people were furloughed.

So we had like 80 percent of our wages paid for by the government, but we weren’t really allowed to work. And I yeah, I had already kind of started getting creative for the beginning of 2020, just experimenting with collaging. And then I was suddenly furloughed. So I’ve got all this time on my hands and I started creating more and spending all my time doing that. And when I eventually found out I was going to be made redundant, it was like, well, this is what I want to do.

This is the kind of creative I’ve been looking for. So, yeah, lots of things kind of fell into place and I feel very lucky that I had that time. So, yeah, that’s kind of how it happened, really.

Dan

I love it. I love it. And do you feel comfortable sharing like what is or what was your day job. What were you doing?

Gladys

Well, my most recent role was it was a performance marketing specialists. So basically I looked after the paid social strategy like paid social appetizing and looked at the performance and price of art of squiggly career path. I’ve you know, I’ve been in leadership. I’ve really enjoyed that. And in sales. As I mentioned, the company that I worked for, they were very good at preventing people from within the company and always gave a chance to try different things.

And, you know, I have such a diverse kind of background. I think that has sort of help. He set up my creative business. All of that experience has been really useful. So, yeah.

Dan

Yeah, I love it. I love it. I love it. You use the word squiggly, which may be more, more common descriptor for careers on your side of the water than over here. But it’s a perfect word.

I love it so much. It’s it’s great. Squiggly, career path, the episode that will, I believe, will be released right before this competition, which at the time of this recording hasn’t been released yet. But it’s really, really talk a lot about the myth of the linear career path that I think a squiggly career path is so much more common than we typically think. And so I think it’s fantastic that you’re owning that you that you’re comfortable saying that your career path hasn’t necessarily been linear.

And I think for most of us and most people listening, they’re looking for their next thing or looking for some sort of transition. I think that’s one of the big fears that we have, is that we have too many, too many. If you take too many turns, you might be become suddenly unemployable or that employers wouldn’t wouldn’t understand it. And I love that what you said, since you have had so much, you know, a breath of experience that that’s giving you some real skills that you can use in your current endeavor, which is great.

I guess as you were taking the twists and turns along your career path, it was that a concern that you had about being too squiggling along the way?

Dan

In some ways, yes. In some ways no. Because I gave each I guess you say each squiggle, you know, do some other time. I was in sales for about five years. But, you know, about a year into that, I kind of set up the ranks to become assistant manager and the manager and eventually senior manager. And I think it was it was seen by the companies like you. You’re just building this wealth of experience.

And they loved people that had gone from, you know, like a retail setting and sales into marketing, because there’s lots of things that they didn’t necessarily know what it was like being in the stores. So I could feel, oh, by the way, guys, I think this would be really useful. This is how it crisis and this is how I would communicate this. So they love to kind of I talk to say, pick people up and pick people down.

But it just it meant there was a big cross pollination of lots of different ideas. And yeah, I think yeah. In some ways I think yeah. I think it’s been really good for me to have such a wide range of experience.

Dan

I love it. And are you focused full time on your art now? Are you still working a day job?

Gladys

So I got made redundant in August, September last year. I kind of search myself for it. This is the opportunity for me to get this sort of oh, this is kind of up and running properly in about February. For the time being, it’s full time, but I’ll see how it goes. These things do take time to grow. And I think I would say if anyone is thinking of starting a small business, I would definitely, you know, make sure that you can replace your, you know, your day job income before you kind of consider going outside because it does take a while to grow.

I don’t think there’s any shame in keeping a day job or finding a part time job to support yourself, because these things do take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as I say. And yeah, it’s definitely something that I would look at later on down the line. At the moment, I’m still so kind of like working things out. So, yeah,

Dan

I love it. I love it. And I appreciate your just authenticity.

You just say, yeah, this is where I am right now and I might get a day job down the road. And I think that that is, you know, a common place of shame. Sometimes people have like that. I want to be a I want to be an author, but that doesn’t in their minds, it’s they’re not not really an author or a writer until they’re fully supporting themselves on it, which isn’t necessarily the truth. A lot of the creatives that we admire, people especially in creative fields, you get started in the evenings and weekends, you have your 9:00 to 5:00 and then you have your five to nine, as they say.

And that’s perfectly suitable way to go about it. I love how you were talking about just this movement in your path of having this more time as you were furloughed and you said you wanted to start getting creative. And I think that there’s a designer a lot of people have liked to get in touch with their creative side, find, you know, find their creative voice or, you know, some some iteration of that. I’m curious for you, what was that process like?

Where did you start? And I think, you know, people are listening how they’ll be filtering. This is where do I start? How do I start getting creative? So I’m curious about just to hear about that. That’s for you.

Gladys

Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, it’s funny at two, because I had experimented with a few different ideas over the years and my most recent thing, I try creating digitally and like drawing, but I just it just didn’t really feel right. So I kind of thought, OK, this is not really the right thing. But the one thing that I realized, even though that wasn’t right for me, is I was way too much pressure on myself to be immediately brilliant at something new.

And I think we lose sight when we get to like adult as a child, we’re like, hey, we’ll just do this for fun and we’re just enjoying it. And then when you get to an adult, you start to get a little bit afraid of being rubbish and maybe other people’s perception of someone trying something new. So when I started collaging, I thought, I’m just going to this is just between myself and my all. I’m not going to share what I’m doing immediately with everyone else because I just really want to explore it and have that private time for myself.

So I just allowed myself the freedom to experiment and just to almost like create rubbish, I suppose. Like, I just, you know, I just was experimenting and I was like, the purpose of this is just to figure out if I like it, if I’m enjoying it, if I’m feeling something, if I’m finding this work meaningful rather than is it good or is it bad. So I think that was really important for me to reframe the way I kind of approached becoming creative, I suppose.

Dan

Yeah, it sounds like you just kind of gave yourself permission to just enjoy the process more so than to have an expectation of what come out of that process.

Gladys

Yeah, definitely.

Dan

Yeah. Yeah. And did you find, I guess, what were some of the more difficult parts of that for you? Like what was it. Just the act of letting go with it, finding a medium that that, you know, felt like the right fit. What parts of that did you feel like were the most challenging?

To be honest, I think the biggest challenge is to probably resonate with anyone that is thinking of starting something creative or trying a new hobby is actually just getting started. That you can plan this as much as you want. So, yeah, I’ll do this. I’ll do that. But it’s actually, dedicate the time to sit down and actually just do it. And I think for a long time I was like, oh, you know, I told my friends. So I really want to do something crazy, but I just I didn’t really act on it.

And I think I held myself back. And I think that’s why when I listen to that audio book was always, oh, my God, this is just like my eyes in terms of the medium itself. I think just doing the act of doing you learn so much is like, oh, I quite like all the different textures and the patterns and the colors. And then because I was enjoying it and not putting too much expectation on it, I just naturally wanted to experiment more and try new things.

And eventually I just got better and better and better. And yeah, that was just through doing this. So many things I couldn’t have predicted without actually doing the collaging itself. So yeah, I would say the challenge was mostly just getting started and as you say, just letting go of expectations.

Dan

Yeah.

Yeah, I love that. Do you feel like just that the effort it took to get started with any of that motivated for you by a fear or like a worry that you weren’t good enough? Or I’m just thinking about other creative endeavors and how sometimes like that there’s an anxiety of like to actually have to. You could say that you want to be creative, but to actually take the time to actually do it, that it takes us it makes it real, I guess, and that there’s a fear that comes along with that of like to actually create something and to say that this is something that I’m doing, I’m choosing to spend my time and effort on.

I know, it’s fear. Has fear been a part of your process?

Gladys

I would say, yeah, it was kind of a big fear and something I probably ignored for a while. Like I always had this nagging feeling that I was really doing what I was supposed to be doing. I had moments in my career and, you know, I worked with great people and I learned a lot of stuff. But yeah, I think it was like you say, it was a fear of it kind of becoming a real thing. And I guess eventually putting myself out there and being like, yes, actually I’m an artist and this is who I am.

I guess it’s probably a change of identity. And I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had some really positive reactions to, you know, let’s hope my closest friends well. So you have this. I’ve always dreamed of starting a business and I’m experimenting with this. I’m really enjoying it, but. It’s got to, I guess, avoid a group of people I’ve only known you in a particular role over a particular company. It’s a bit scary because, you know, I guess it’s not fair that people don’t like who she thinks she is trying this new thing.

And, you know, I guess it’s probably a lot of those, I guess, internalize fears that more often than not this they’re not really true. But it’s just, I guess, stuff that we kind of say to ourselves. And we hold ourselves back and we call ourselves down. And yeah, I think that was probably a big fear of mine.

Dan

Yeah, I love that you mentioned that change of identity because I think that is such a big part of all of these transitions for us, that that work always has something to do with identity. And because it asks us the question of who do you want to be in the world? What change do you want to make? What legacy do you want to leave? All of those questions and all these things can make it feel really, really big. And so then to go about making a change, to say that I’m an artist or I’m an entrepreneur or whatever it might be like, there’s a lot of I can carry a lot of weight.

I’m curious for you. You know, we’ve kind of already touched on this a little bit. But when did you first start identifying as an artist? When did you first find yourself being able to say, yes, I am an artist? That is a part of who I am.

So I was followed in April last year, and then over the summer I was like, you know, just crying like fun pieces. And once I kind of realized I was going to be made redundant, I kind of reached that fork in the road, thought, OK, should I go down and carry a little corporate path and maybe just try and just set this thing up on the side and just kind of do it very slowly? Or should I dove in and try and just focus on this full time for the next few months whilst I’m setting it up?

And I guess I kind of felt like my fellow period is like a test drive. It’s like my dream life, like I love being it’s create daily. And I loved the just the complete focus that I had in my work, like I’d say for many years. You know, I think, you know, in jobs today, there’s a lot of multitasking, there’s a lot of distractions, there’s a lot of meetings. And, you know, I think I found it quite hard to concentrate in my day to day role.

And then I came to doing art and I just had this laser focus for something. And I just realized this is what I meant to be doing. You know, I’ve always enjoyed doing things in a creative way. And I think, yeah, it’s like late last year when people asking me, oh, you know, if you found a job, you’re going to do it. I was just like, this is what I want to do business.

That’s what I am. I’m an artist and I’m not afraid of saying that anymore. So, yeah, I feel confident in my work and I feel happy in my new path.

Dan

I love it. I love it. When you think forward about your art and where you want to take it, I’m curious if you have any specific desires or hopes for the impact that you want your art to make on people around the world.

I, I mean, the main things my art is, you know, to kind of highlight, I guess, the simple pleasures in life. And I’ve kind of reimagined them and like, you know, lots of colors and patterns and ultimately is to sort of bring joy to people. And I would love to expand how I do my art in certain places so I can put them. At the moment, I’m just selling prints like fine art prints of my work.

I would love to in the future, you know, do soft interiors and that kind of stuff and really create a brand for people that love kind of maximalists color and vibrancy. But that’s one aspect. But I would love to be someone that inspires people that don’t have a traditional background to kind of get into something creative and not feel, you know, I guess still that fear or worry about doing so. I would love to inspire others to make the leap.

I suppose that’s what I would love to do.

Dan

I love it. I love it. Yeah. Do you feel like in your art and I know you use the phrase you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing? You mentioned in your work that you just never felt that sense. Do you feel like with your art, like when you’re creating that that’s what you’re made for?

Gladys

Yeah, I think so. I think I just have this great sense of like enjoyment and pleasure. Like, I love the whole process from start to finish, like thinking of composition, drawing it out, seeing the piece kind of come to life because I built my pieces quite spontaneously. I don’t like color schemes or anything like the. I just have huge like 95 different types of textures that I use and, you know, I just love seeing it kind of come to life and yeah, it’s just I can’t imagine now doing anything else.

Dan

I love it. I love it. I’d love to hear more about your creative process. Like, what is it you’re going to be, you know, when you sit down to create? Is it do you start with an idea or do you just start with your materials? Just see what emerges, where do the pieces come from?

Gladys

So when I was in lockdown, obviously last year, you know, a lot of privileges got taken away, lots of things shut down and kind of got me to reassess life a little bit and maybe appreciate those simple pleasures like food and nature. Like I’ve rediscovered my local area because the only way we could go next is for you can go to the gym because it was closed. And I kind of started off with those as my inspiration, like, oh, I am a big foodie and I cut aside from there really.

And so folks and get around simple pleasures and nature and kind of giving them sort of an injection of color and vibrancy. So I tend to think about things. I’ll just. Yeah, just simple pleasures, like a really nice dish of food and. Yeah. And then I draw them out and then I kind of like very slowly those like kind of like a jigsaw puzzle or every single piece is cut in place. Precisely. And yeah, they take a couple of weeks but I feel so much joy what I’ve finished and throughout the process what I’m creating them as well.

Dan

I love it. And your material, is it primarily paper and notes collage. But I’m looking at your work and everyone listening. You should definitely go to Gladys site and check out her work. I think it would give a whole nother dimension to our conversation, but what are they actually made out of? What are all the materials that you use?

Gladys

So there’s lots of different types of paper. So I model my own paper. If you aren’t sure what marbling is, it’s basically where you have a tray full of like a solution, which is kind of like water and then you drop inks on top. And then you put paper on that. It’s got this lovely sort of like swirly pattern that most people will have done it in like primary school. It’s quite a fun thing, items paper and paper. And then there’s a lot of like different like magazine papers I use.

It’s a real mix of papers, just lots of different sources.

Dan

Yeah. Yeah. And then how do you how do you assemble it, like putting it all together.

So I tend to do my like a drawing of my composition, but it’s one thing that I do digitally because I can manipulate the size, I could easily play around the composition until I’m happy. And then what I do is I project that onto an AI two or three sized pieces, quite heavy court. And then I drove out. And then when I’m looking at the piece, I’m looking at the shapes. If I’m like, look, I want my cats, for example, very first class of pieces of paper.

So I try a little bit paper. Then I would figure out the source material. Right. It looks good that I try to cut it out and then stick it down. So it’s quite a painstaking process, but I think it was something quite unique.

Dan

Yeah, I love it. They’re really, really beautiful, extremely colorful. I think you use the word maximalists, which I think is really a great word for color maximalists. They’re super, super fun. Do you feel like your work with these materials that it’s connected at all to your experience in studying textiles? Is there an overlap there?

Gladys

I think so. I think that’s why when I tried to just who all just didn’t love it because I just love I remember you need to think all of the different. You do loads of different textile samples and different types of fabric. And I just loved it like the feel of things in the white paper and whether it’s gloss or matt and. Yeah, just different. Like, you know, I can see that I can kind of picture in my mind if I’ve looked like a page with like a fashion shoot or something.

And I thought section would look really cool. Or this texture would look really cool. So yeah, I think it’s definitely linked to my textiles. I think working by hand is just I know there’s so many people that are doing it digitally these days, you know, props to them, but it just doesn’t quite work for me.

Dan

It doesn’t resonate. Yeah. Yeah. I appreciate that. I can totally understand how different the process is when you can’t touch it like you can’t feel it. It’s a different experience. Yeah. Just even thinking about your experience studying textiles and making that choice, did you have a desire at that point in your life to go into fashion and fashion design or something along those lines?

Gladys

Yeah, so. The closer I started, it was like a bachelor of arts in fashion, and there was a few different pathways you go to and you could always do fashion communications. So stuff like photography and the styling and, you know, all of that kind of stuff. Then there was women’s wear, menswear and textiles. And then within textiles you could do women’s men’s. And I was I actually opted to do menswear. And at the time, like, I love the idea of going into fashion, but I had quite a difficult final year, contrary to what people might think of fashion or the perception is very long hours and it’s quite a lot of work.

And I just unfortunately became a well and I needed an extension. And I just for that time, I was like, I just need to close this chapter, because in the U.K., I don’t know what it’s like in the US or anywhere else, but in the U.K. at the time to kind of get anywhere in fashion, a lot of the time you have to do unpaid internships. And I just I can’t afford to do that. So let me just get a job for now.

And I could look at later. And then I got the travel bug and then I ended up working for the company I worked for for seven years, which is a flight center. So I enjoy that. My second love travel. And that was great. But yeah, I kind of just close that chapter for a while, so.

Dan

Yeah, that’s great. Yeah, I think it’s a common story. I think that we go to school for something and hopes to pursue it and then for whatever reason doesn’t work out. And we find ourselves, you know, what can feel like a million miles away just out of necessity and the choices that we’ve make along the way. I love how you’re making the choice to kind of return back to things you love and let that be a guiding, guiding value in what you’re pursuing right now.

I’m curious for people who are listening who. Well, I think there’s a couple of things. One is, you know, a lot of people listening are looking at making some sort of transition. I feel like often they’re in places where they just know something’s not working, but they don’t know what that is. And I’m curious for you, if you have any words of wisdom from your transition thus far that you would offer to people who were in that kind of stuck, uncertain, looking for their next thing in that kind of a space?

Gladys

Yeah, definitely. One thing that did help me, and this is probably more for people that perhaps aren’t sure what they want to do, but they know whatever they’re doing right now, they’re not enjoying. I did read a really useful book called What Color Is Your Parachute on This? It’s kind of already. So I want to do something creative. But I thought I just want to be sure that it’s not just like a whim of mine is something that I’m going to be suited to is a really useful tool because it kind of helps you.

It really trickles down into like the skills, you know, what your likes and dislikes. But for example, one thing I thought was really interesting, I was applying for jobs at the beginning of 2020. My original goal was to get that paint job, to ease some financial commitments. And what I found really interesting, I was applying for some jobs. And then when I did the kind of exercises in this book, I realized that I was going against a lot of my values.

It was just like, you know, I didn’t want to work super late hours, that I didn’t want to work. I can’t remember exactly what they were, but it was a really useful tool. So that’s probably what I’d recommend for people that are a little bit stuck. I want to know how they can transition their skills to a couple of different roles and then for people to know that they want to do something creative. The main thing I would just say is to start small.

Don’t put too much pressure on it and just try it and see if you enjoy. You’re not going to enjoy everything that you try, but it’s just important to give it a go and not stop trying. And yeah, just just see how you feel whilst you’re doing it. So that would be my recommendation.

Dan

I love it. That’s really, really fantastic. Yeah, I know What Color Is Your Parachutes is really. It’s a book. A lot of people find their career path through that book or that book spoken to them in this field. That’s a really common resource. I’m happy that you found it helpful and that you recommend it as well. I’ll make sure to link up to that in the show notes for people who are listening that you want to interact with you more following along with your work.

Do you have any specific action steps you’d like to invite them to?

Gladys

Yeah, sure. You know, if you want to follow along my journey, I’m most active on Instagram. My Instagram handle is by Gladis Holiday. And if you want to see some of my work, read a little bit more about the website, which is holiday dot com. And I’d love for people to reach out as well if they are or were in a similar position to me. I always love hearing from people that have made the jump to something creative.

Dan

I love it. I love it. I love that you’re making that jump. It’s so fun. I think it’s just really great to have this conversation that you’re in process and I just really appreciate you being open about your transition. And I think it’s so much more helpful for us to have a conversation now while you’re in the process than five, 10, whatever years down the road when you’re hopefully, you know, really successful artists, that you have your business up and up and running.

And it can be. So I think it can be really discouraging for people who are trying to make that transition to hear from people who are on the other side. And it can feel so easy or simple in hindsight, but to be in the process, to be open about your process. I just really appreciate your authenticity and vulnerability along the way.

Gladys

Yeah, no problem. I think, you know, in the world of social media, it’s very easy to see people that have made it and have done really well. And that’s great. But it can be almost demotivate for people that, you know, are just getting started and wish there was more people that kind of I guess, you know. Yeah. What you say in the process.

Dan

Yeah, it’s great. It’s great. Well, Gladys, thank you so much for joining me today. It’s just been so fun to connect. I hope everyone listening will stop by Gladys’s Instagram and website and check out her work. I’ll make sure to link up to all of those in the show notes. Thank you so much for joining me, Gladys.

Gladys

Thank you so much for having me. 

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